More things change

An army soldier was killed and three others were injured in a ‘sniper fire’ by Pakistan Rangers at Keran sector along the Line of Control in north Kashmir Kupwara district on Tuesday. Earlier a BSF constable was killed as Pakistani Rangers resorted to mortar shelling and small arms fire along the International Border in Arnia and adjoining R S Pura sectors near Jammu. Three BSF outposts- S M Base, Budwar and Nikkowal- were targeted by the Pakistan forces. Earlier still, the cross-LoC firing took place in Debraj, Krishna Ghati and Ishapur in Mendhar sector.  So, if the hardline approach of New Delhi together with the surgical strikes last year was expected to calm the border, nothing of the sort has happened. The ceasefire violations have increased in frequency. And now and then, Pakistani soldiers and even the militants have crossed the border and carried out the attacks in J&K. In June, two Indian soldiers were killed in a cross-border ambush near the Line of Control, less than 10 km from the town of Poonch in Jammu. The ambush carried out by a suspected Pakistan border action team in the midst of the intense mortar and small arms exchanges that raged through the day.  Similarly, Pakistan has time and again complained of the repeated Indian firing along the LoC. The country has even summoned the Indian envoy to register protest.

In Valley, militancy has made a dramatic return to the scene. Both local recruitment and the infiltration has raised the level of violence. The militancy, on the other hand, has been complemented by an overwhelming public support. The rising violence, in turn, has cast its long shadows on any Indo-Pak rapprochement, already hobbled by the lack of diplomatic contact between the estranged neighbours. The leaders of the two countries have now even given up the pretension of showing interest in the engagement thus abdicating their responsibility towards peace in the region. This has let the violence take the centre stage again.

The truth is that the improvement in the ground situation in Kashmir will never be possible in a diplomatic and political vacuum. In fact, the violence in Kashmir has always been directly fed by the consistent lack of any progress in dialogue between the two countries spanning 65 years. And refusing to engage meaningfully and in a result-oriented way will only take this history forward. We can hope for a little redeeming difference to the existing situation in Kashmir. With return of the border eruptions with a vengeance, the situation is threatening to go back to square one. And if left unattended, the situation is likely to worsen in the days to come. Hence the need for the two countries to reach out to each other and pull the situation back from the brink. With dialogue already suspended and tensions rising high,  India and Pakistan can ill-afford to let the border skirmishes go on unchecked and escalate into a major conflict.




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